The system will consist of four flags:
- A green flag is a low alert, symbolizing good conditions for heat and humidity.
- A yellow flag is a moderate alert, meaning less-than-ideal conditions. Runners should consider slowing down.
- A red flag is a high alert, meaning runners are facing potentially dangerous conditions. They should consider slowing down and keeping a keen eye on the temperature.
- A black flag is an extreme alert level, which would result in the runners being asked to stop. Because of record high temperatures this spring, two marathons in Wisconsin were black-flagged in May, one before it started.
High temperatures are nothing new to organizers of the Peachtree. The starting temperature for last year’s race was 73 degrees, the warmest since 1997. However, few runners believed afterward it was that cool. If this year’s color-coded system were in place last year, the race would have started on yellow and reached red, Russell said.
The flag system has been used mostly by marathon events, including the Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon earlier this year. Russell thought it would work well for the Peachtree because she said it’s “putting more structure around what we’ve been doing for years and years and years.”
The flags will be placed through the course: at the start line, at each water stop and at the finish line. Race medical director Dr. Joe Wilson and Russell make the joint decision on the color of the flags and when to change them.
The system will be added to other safety measures in place, including water tables, the use of social media to alert competitors about conditions and hundreds of medical personnel situated throughout the course.
“We plan on every year for it to be really tough conditions,” Russell said. “We plan every year for weather like we had last year. That’s expected in Atlanta on July 4. We hope we have a slow day for the medical teams.”
To ensure that there is a smooth flow on the course, race organizers will continue to educate participants on “rules of the road,” including having the slower runners and walkers stay on the right. They also will work with local businesses, some of whom like to throw T-shirts to the participants as they run by, which can cause collisions, to help them understand the best ways to interact with runners.